What is art?
Sometimes, that question leads you on a deeply philosophical journey about things like historical and contemporary context. There's often some commentary about producing work that appeals to the masses, versus doing art for its own sake, and allowing (or helping) the right audience to find it. You'll also typically find some hand-wringing about skill versus luck, and artistic intent versus pure chance.
To be clear, I've had those conversations. I've dived head-first into those philosophical journeys (sometimes even on this blog, like this or this or this). And the constant tensions between popularity and individuality, and between intent and chance, are tensions that I feel every single day.
But sometimes, you sit down, and are greeted by your presenter for the evening, Joshua J. Ladgrove. Sometimes the presenter gets things moving by squeezing some toothpaste onto a banana, eating that banana with the peel on, and then chugging some Listerine, and that's when you know you're in for a wild-ass ride.
Sometimes, you only recognize art in hindsight.
Let me tell you about life as a trainee bilge pump salesman. It's… intense… and peculiar… Ironically enough for a post like this one, our training started off with some philosophy as well. Also, I forgot to mention that before the Listerine, Joshua flossed and then ended up with blood down the entire front of his shirt. Thankfully, he flipped it around backwards to… umm…
Yeah, so life as a trainee bilge pump salesman is kind of weird. The structure of the show, if you could call it that, was to follow each absurd premise with an even more absurd conclusion, followed by a completely… uhh… rational? decision that followed from that conclusion. And then the cycle would just repeat. That's how Joshua drew us into his world. One of the first steps in becoming the world's best bilge pump salesman was letting go of the world that you once knew.
Our training continued with the Circle of Sell. We needed to be selling 60 seconds every minute, 60 minutes every hour, and 24 hours every day. And we needed to think about the challenge of selling bilge pumps from every perspective covered by the Five "W"s. Joshua then illustrated one of those Five "W"s — that being "how?", of course… — by demonstrating his adult-sized baby technique on some unwitting volunteers from the crowd.
It went kind of like this:
Joshua unexpectedly jumps into the arms of the volunteers…
Joshua: I'm dressed up as a baby to sell bilge pumps. Now why would I do that?
Volunteers, through laughter: Uhh… I don't know?
Joshua: So… would you like to buy some bilge pumps?
It stands to reason that this is when Joshua was taken over by the devil…
And that, by the end of the show, when we trainees finally got to get a peek at an actual, honest-to-goodness bilge pump, what Joshua removed from the box was actually a tiny little demon baby…
That promptly peed blood all over him…
In closing, Joshua congratulated us on our successful training as enterprising bilge pump salespeople, and reminded us to always remember that the real bilge pump demon baby is in our heart. The end.
After the show, my friend and I left to get something to eat, and ended up at a restaurant in Melbourne's Chinatown. After eating, we had just paid and stood up to leave when who should walk through the door but the diabolical salesman himself, still wearing his bloody shirt and somewhat blood-stained pants, and with blood stains still on his neck from the demon baby "shower." I did a double-take, and then one more for good measure, before I believed what my eyes were telling me.
Sometimes the beauty of chance, in art, is that after the devil brings you into his world, the real world might seem a little more absurd than it did before.